Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.


Brain Gym(R): Building Stronger Brains or Wishful Thinking?

Article  in  Remedial and Special Education · April 2007

DOI: 10.1177/07419325070280020201

43 3,271

1 author:

Keith J. Hyatt
Western Washington University


All content following this page was uploaded by Keith J. Hyatt on 01 September 2015.

The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.

Brain Gym®
Building Stronger Brains or Wishful Thinking?


A s part of the accountability movement, schools are Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Individuals with Dis-
increasingly called upon to provide interventions that are based abilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 have required
on sound scientific research and that provide measurable out-
comes for children. Brain Gym® is a popular commercial program
that whenever possible, schools must provide students with
claiming that adherence to its regimen will result in more efficient academic instruction using scientific, research-based meth-
learning in an almost miraculous manner. However, a review of the ods. Although an exact definition of scientific, research-based
theoretical foundations of Brain Gym® and the associated peer-re- methodology is not contained in either law, Browder and
viewed research studies failed to support the contentions of the Cooper-Duffy (2003) stressed the importance of using and
promoters of Brain Gym®. Educators are encouraged to become
informed consumers of research and to avoid implementing
building upon instructional methodologies that have sound
programming for which there is neither a credible theoretical nor a empirical support from high-quality research studies.
sound research basis. Brain Gym® is one popular commercial program mar-
keted in more than 80 countries (“Official Brain Gym® Web
Site,” 2005, About §) that has received a considerable amount
of attention in the press, with many individuals claiming that


tury, American schools have been called upon to provide a
wide range of educational programming that should result in
it provided the necessary stimulation needed for effective
learning (Chaker, 2005; Hannaford, 1996; Ratliff, 2005). Ac-
cording to a training schedule published on the Official Brain
Gym® Web site, there were 337 different trainings scheduled
between February and December of 2006. Of those trainings,
significant benefits for society (Bracey, 2002). In October 211 were scheduled in the United States, with the remaining
1957, the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite by the So- 126 trainings scheduled in Canada, Australia, the United
viet Union resulted in immediate demands for reform in Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan,
American schools in order to address Soviet technological Indonesia, and Singapore.
advances. A similar call for increased standards was promul- The specific purposes of this article are (a) to review the
gated by the National Commission on Excellence in Educa- theoretical bases and research findings on which the develop-
tion’s (1983) report, A Nation at Risk, in which public ers of Brain Gym® base the claim that their movement activ-
education was described as mediocre. Although some schol- ities will enhance learning and (b) to determine whether those
ars have argued that American schools are performing much activities are scientific, research-based practices. To accom-
better than suggested by the bleak accounts commonly found plish these goals, a brief description of Brain Gym® will be pro-
in the media and in government sources (Berliner & Biddle, vided, followed by a review of the theoretical foundations of
1995; Bracey, 2002), there is no question that schools are the program, a critique of the relevant research findings, and
being held to higher levels of accountability. Both the No finally conclusions and recommendations.

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007, Pages 117–124
WHAT IS BRAIN GYM®? none of the movements include an assessment activity to de-
termine which of the three dimensions of the brain require at-
Brain Gym®, also known as educational kinesiology, was de- tention and which movement would be most appropriate. It
veloped in the 1970s by Dennison and Dennison (“Official appears that an armchair diagnosis is all that is required to
Brain Gym® Web Site,” 2005, About §, ¶ 3) and consists of a implement a movement regime that purportedly causes neu-
series of movements that purportedly activate the brain, pro- rological changes in a student.
mote neurological repatterning, and facilitate whole-brain
learning (Dennison & Dennison, 1994). The program is based
on the notion that learning problems are caused when differ- THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
ent sections of the brain and body do not work in a coordi-
nated manner, thereby blocking an individual’s ability to The three main theoretical categories on which Brain Gym®
learn (Dennison & Dennison, 1994). To overcome this learn- is based include neurological repatterning, cerebral domi-
ing block, the program recommends a variety of simple nance, and perceptual–motor training. Although there is over-
movements that are intended to improve the integration of lap among these different theories, they are categorized by
specific brain functions with body movements. In fact, Brain their most salient features to provide some degree of structure
Gym® is described as a process for re-educating the mind and to the review.
body that would result in learning any skill more efficiently
and easily (“Official Brain Gym® Web Site,” 2005, FAQ §, ¶ 1).
Neurological Repatterning
The theoretical basis on which brain functioning is con-
ceptualized, according to Brain Gym® literature, is relatively A major foundational assumption of Brain Gym® is the idea
simplistic and described along three dimensions: laterality, of neurological repatterning, and many of its activities are
focusing, and centering (Braingym.com, 2005, What Is It based on the Doman-Delacato theory of development (Den-
§, ¶¶ 3–5; Dennison & Dennison, 1994; “Official Brain nison & Dennison, 1994). According to this recapitulationist
Gym® Web Site,” 2005, What Are Edu-K’s Three Dimensions theory, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, meaning that the
§). Laterality refers to the coordination between the right and development of the individual mirrors the development of the
left hemispheres of the brain and is viewed as necessary for species (Crain, 2000). Thus, to achieve efficient neurological
reading, writing, listening, speaking, and the ability to move development, the individual must satisfactorily acquire spe-
and think at the same time. Focusing refers to the ability to cific motor skills during different developmental stages. If
coordinate information between the front and back portion of motor skills associated with any of the developmental stages
the brain and is related to comprehension as well as attention- have been skipped, then neurological development is hin-
deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The final dimension, centering, dered and learning abilities are limited (Doman, 1968).
refers to the coordination of the top and bottom halves of the According to Doman (1968), a child who walked before
brain, which is described as necessary to balance rational crawling missed a critical step in motor development, which
thought with emotion. Although efficient connections among could account for future difficulties with more complex neu-
various parts of the brain may foster cognitive development, rological processes such as reading. To treat this neurological
none of the Brain Gym® literature has provided research- gap, the child would be provided with exercises that mimic-
based, scientific evidence supporting this view of brain func- ked primitive motor development to ensure that movements
tioning. In fact, the Brain Gym® literature has made it sound at all stages were mastered. Accordingly, the child would be
as if the brain could be easily partitioned into different sec- taught to crawl, with the idea that this would repattern the
tions, and that simple movement activities would result in im- neurons, leaving the child neurologically intact and ready to
proved neurological development and learning for people of acquire academic skills. In a review of the Doman-Delacato
all ages. procedures, MacKay, Gollogly, and McDonald (1986) clearly
Because the developers of Brain Gym® own the copy- described the different crawling treatments associated with
right for the specific movement activities, none of these will the procedure and noted that the program was not effective in
be described in detail. However, suffice it to note that the ameliorating disabilities. Other researchers (Robbins, 1966;
movements include activities such as crawling, drawing, tracing Stone & Pielstick, 1969) had also found the Doman-Delacato
symbols in the air, yawning, and drinking water. Dennison procedures ineffective prior to the development of Brain
noted that he included yawning after becoming convinced Gym®.
that purposeful yawning had improved his eyesight (Denni- Numerous organizations have issued cautionary state-
son & Dennison, 1994) but failed to provide research support ments regarding the Doman-Delacato procedures. “The Doman-
for the link between yawning and vision. Delacato Treatment of Neurologically Handicapped Children”
None of the Brain Gym® movements that supposedly fa- (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1968) was a joint state-
cilitate academic learning actually include academic instruc- ment approved by the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy,
tion as a component; rather, it seems that the purpose of the American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pe-
movements is to get the child ready to learn. Furthermore, diatrics, American Academy for Physical Medicine and Re-

118 R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007

habilitation, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, specific instructional strategy. Oakland, Black, Stanford, Nuss-
American Academy of Orthopedics, Canadian Association baum, and Balise (1998) noted that little research has been
for Children with Learning Disabilities, Canadian Associa- conducted to validate the Orton-Gillingham approach, and in
tion for Retarded Children, Canadian Rehabilitation Council a book entirely devoted to multisensory teaching, Moats and
for the Disabled, and the National Association for Retarded Farrell (2005) noted that it “endures even though it has been
Citizens. This large group of well-respected medical and ed- poorly defined and is not well validated in existing interven-
ucational professionals identified serious concerns with the tion studies” (p. 33).
procedures, the claims of successful interventions, and the As Dennison and Dennison (1994) did not identify a
concomitant lack of empirical evidence supporting the repat- specific relationship between Orton’s work and Brain Gym®,
terning therapies used by the Institutes for Achievement of one might assume that the link was related to Orton’s ideas of
Human Potential, which promoted the Doman-Delacato cerebral dominance as well as the multisensory approaches.
treatment procedures. To date, the idea of neural organization However, Orton’s theories regarding hemispheric dominance
or neurological repatterning has not met the rigors of scien- have been refuted in the literature, and there is a lack of
tific research, and programs that offered repatterning have not empirical support for multisensory teaching approaches. In
resulted in increased learning (American Academy of Pedi- essence, this line of theoretical support recognized by the de-
atrics, 1999; Cohen, 1969; Robbins, 1966; Stone & Pielstick, velopers of Brain Gym® has also failed the rigors of scientific
1969). Novella (1996) has gone so far as to state that the In- inquiry.
stitutes for Achievement of Human Potential are practicing
fraud. Thus, it appears that one of the major theoretical bases
on which Brain Gym® was developed has failed to meet the Perceptual–Motor Training
rigors of scientific investigation decades ago and may have A third theory on which Brain Gym® has drawn is that of
gained some notoriety in the process. perceptual–motor training—an approach to learning that at-
tributed learning problems to inefficient integration of any
combination of visual, auditory, and motor skills. Accord-
Cerebral Dominance
ingly, if a child had an academic deficit, the appropriate per-
Dennison and Dennison (1994) noted that Brain Gym® was ceptual skills could be taught that would enable the child to
also based on work by Orton, who investigated causes and overcome the learning problems. Some of the strategies used
treatments for learning disabilities. Orton’s work was con- to purportedly improve perceptual–motor skills and improve
ducted in the early twentieth century, and he theorized that learning have included activities such as crawling, bouncing
mixed cerebral dominance was a cause of reading difficulty balls, throwing beanbags, and walking on a balance beam.
(Orton, 1937). However, research has not substantiated the Barsch (1967), for example, promoted a movement curricu-
impact of cerebral dominance on learning (Mayringer and lum called Movigenics, claiming that the development of
Wimmer, 2002; Mohan, Singh, & Mandal, 2001; Pipe, 1988), movement patterns was related to learning efficiency.
and after reviewing brain research studies, Hynd and Semrud- A considerable amount of research has failed to demon-
Clikeman (1989) determined that the evidence failed to sup- strate that perceptual–motor training activities are effective
port the contention that deviations in brain morphology were academic interventions (Arter & Jenkins, 1979; Bochner, 1978;
related to learning difficulties. Cohen, 1969; Hammill, Goodman, & Wiederholt, 1974; Ka-
Orton (1937) also speculated that the transposition and vale & Forness, 1987; Kavale & Mattson, 1983; Sullivan,
reversal of letters indicated problems with cerebral domi- 1972). Despite these unfavorable research findings, the no-
nance and were indicative of learning problems. Research tion of perceptual–motor training as an academic intervention
findings have also failed to support this assumption. Liber- has persisted. In a current text on assessment in special edu-
man, Shankweiler, Orlando, Harris, and Bell Berti (1971) and cation, Salvia and Ysseldyke (2004) devoted a chapter to the
Stanovich (1985) noted that poor readers may have letter se- assessment of perceptual–motor skills because some tests are
quence and reversal errors, but as a proportion of the total still in use today. However, they noted that the tests were nei-
number of errors made, there was no significant difference ther theoretically nor psychometrically adequate and stated
when compared to error patterns of good readers. As Stan- that “the real danger is that reliance on such tests in planning
ovich (1985) noted, “the sequencing and ‘reversal’ errors interventions for children may actually lead teachers to as-
(b/d, was/saw) that once loomed so large in importance have sign children to activities that do the children no known
proven to be a dead end” (p. 70). good” (p. 538).
Hallahan and Mercer (2001) noted that few subscribe to There has also been a considerable amount of research
this theory of cerebral dominance today, but Orton’s theory on modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) assessment and in-
was a basis for the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading that structional procedures. Arter and Jenkins (1979) and Kavale
is still in use. This approach, as described by Sheffield and Forness (1987) found that the literature failed to support
(1991), is really a philosophy that incorporated multisensory either the assessment or training of visual, auditory, and
phonics-based activities into instructional programs, not a kinesthetic skills or the relationship between modality train-

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007
ing and the acquisition of academic skills. They therefore rec- RESEARCH FINDINGS
ommended that the modality model be abandoned in favor
of the development of effective, research-based instructional In spite of the lack of a research-supported theoretical foun-
procedures. dation for Brain Gym®, some research has been conducted
An additional area of perceptual–motor training that ap- regarding the application of the procedures. An extensive lit-
pears to have been incorporated into Brain Gym® is vision erature review resulted in the identification of only five peer-
therapy. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American reviewed journal articles that addressed the effectiveness of
Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Association for Brain Gym®. Of those five articles, only four will be re-
Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus issued a joint state- viewed; one was discarded because the author of that article
ment strongly discrediting vision therapy (American Acad- was one of the four participants in the study (Wolfsont,
emy of Pediatrics, 1998). In that statement, they noted that 2002). Three of the remaining four articles were published in
eye defects do not cause letter reversals and that no scientific the same journal, in which authors must pay for publication.
evidence supports claims that the academic skills of children Rather than describing each study in detail, Table 1 provides
with learning disabilities can be improved through vision an overview. The research described in these articles con-
training or the use of colored glasses. Whereas visual prob- tained serious methodological flaws, some of which will be
lems should be corrected, there is no convincing body of re- briefly discussed here.
search supporting the use of optometric visual training as a Khalsa, Morris, and Sifft (1988) conducted a study to
treatment for learning problems (Keogh & Pelland, 1985; determine whether participation in Brain Gym® activities re-
Sieban, 1977; Silver, 1995). sulted in improved static balance of children as measured by
performance on a modified stork stand test (i.e., on one foot
with the other hooked behind the knee of the supporting leg
Summary of Theoretical Foundations
and hands on hips). Following a pretest measure, treatment
Brain Gym® materials and writings have consistently pro- regimens for the two treatment groups were conducted by an
moted the notion that the exercises “activate the brain” and unspecified number of classroom teachers with children of
facilitate “whole brain learning.” However, Brain Gym® ma- varying ages who attended different elementary schools. The
terials provide no scientific support that the brain needs to be authors did not describe the training received by the teachers,
“turned on,” nor do the materials provide research support re- nor did they identify whether any safeguards were imple-
garding whole brain learning or even a definition of exactly mented to ensure treatment fidelity across teachers and set-
what this term means. These terms appear to be phrases that tings. Because these threats to validity were not addressed, it
capture the imagination and lead the uninformed reader to be- is within reason to assume that the teachers of the treatment
lieve in something for which there is no theoretical support. groups told students that they were doing the Brain Gym® ac-
In fact, research findings have strongly refuted the theoretical tivities to improve their performance on an upcoming stork
foundations on which Brain Gym® was developed. Neurolog- stand test. Furthermore, it is unknown whether students were
ical repatterning has been described as fraudulent, cerebral prohibited from practicing the stork stand during the treat-
dominance has not been linked to learning, and perceptual– ment phase of the study. At posttest, the students were tested
motor training has not withstood rigorous scientific investi- on the stork stand, and the results indicated a significant dif-
gation. ference in the gain scores, with the repatterned group show-
In contrast to claims made by the promoters of brain- ing the most improvement, followed by the movement group.
based approaches, such as Brain Gym®, Bruer (2004) noted Gain scores were computed by subtracting pretest scores
that neurological development is genetically determined and from posttest scores, but the authors’ use of gain scores is of
that there is no research supporting the notion that certain particular concern, due to the unknown reliability of such
movements facilitate neural development. He did note that scores (Thorndike, 2005). The researchers’ descriptions of
for some areas of the brain, such as the visual center, there ap- the data were also contradictory. They stated that there were
pears to be a critical period when sensory input is required for no significant differences between the mean scores of the
proper neurological development. However, he made the case groups at pretest, but when discussing posttest results, they
that much of the rush by educators to provide “brain-based” stated that one group’s initial mean score was “well below
learning opportunities for children is based on information those of the other two groups” (p. 55). Due to the numerous
that is selective, oversimplified, or incorrectly interpreted, methodological errors, the findings of this study cannot be in-
and he strongly urged that educators and the public exercise terpreted with an acceptable level of certainty, but perhaps a
great caution when trying to apply findings from brain sci- more crucial question is whether performing the stork stand
ence to educational interventions. In essence, brain science is educationally relevant and whether the 10 min per day for
has provided information about neurons and synapses but has 6 weeks (5 hrs) of the intervention was a good use of instruc-
not provided information that could guide educational prac- tional time for children experiencing learning problems.
tices in any meaningful ways (Bruer, 1999; Ormrod, 2004; Sifft and Khalsa (1991) described a study conducted to
Seger et al., 2000). determine whether the response time of college students to

120 R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007

TABLE 1. Overview of Brain Gym Research

Intervention strategies Statistical

Publication Participants Design Measures and duration test

Khalsa, Morris, & 60 (30 boys, 30 girls) Group Pre- and posttest Group 1: one 10-min ses- One-way
Siftt, 1988 Identified as having 1: repattern on modified sion in homolateral and ANOVA
LD 2: movement stork stand cross-lateral move-
ages 7–11 yrs 3: control ments and unspecified
eye movement + BG 10
min/day, 6 weeks
Group 2: BG 10 min/day,
6 weeks
Group 3: comparison

Sifft & Khalsa, 1991 60 (30 men, Group Pre- and posttest Group 1: one 10-min ses- Two-way
30 women) 1: repattern on 2 mea- sion in homolateral and ANOVA
ages 19–40 yrs 2: movement sures of re- cross-lateral move-
3: control sponse time ments and unspecified
eye movement + 5 min
Group 2: 5 min BG
Group 3: 5 min of rest
5–15-min interventions

Cammisa, 1994 25 (19 boys, 6 girls) Group served as Pre- and posttest Unspecified BG move- Paired t tests
Identified as having own control on perceptual ments for 1 year
LD and academic
ages 7-4–17-4 tests

De los Santos, 2002 School 1: 390 School 1: Experi- Teacher ratings Group 1 (Experimental): Teacher ratings
students mental group and perfor- played classical music and percent-
School 2: 596 School 2: Control mance on during class time + 20 age of mean
students group academic min/day of brain exer- score in-
ages pre-K–Grade 5 achievement cises crease on
tests Group 2 (Control): regular academic
instruction tests
1-year intervention

Note. LD = learning disabilities; BG = Brain Gym®.

two types of visual stimuli could be shortened following a viously noted, are of dubious value due to reliability con-
Brain Gym® intervention. As with their earlier study (Khalsa cerns. Although the authors concluded that the results sup-
et al., 1988), the authors did not describe any procedures to ported the efficacy of Brain Gym®, a careful reading of the
ensure treatment fidelity. At posttest, they reported a signifi- study indicates that the data did not demonstrate that the
cant main effect for groups, with the repatterned group de- Brain Gym® activities were superior to no treatment at all.
creasing response time most, followed by the movement Due to the numerous methodological problems, including the
group, then the control group. However, there were several lack of controls for threats to validity, lack of reliability evi-
methodological problems with this study. The authors did not dence, and inappropriate statistical procedures, the results of
determine whether there were differences in performance this study cannot be accepted with any degree of certainty.
among the groups prior to the intervention, and the data Cammisa (1994) reported that following 1 year of Brain
analysis did not identify an interaction effect—just a main ef- Gym® activities, the participants scored significantly higher
fect that simply indicated that the response time of all three on a test of perceptual–motor skills but not on an academic
groups decreased. Thus, the decrease in response time could measure. However, the author failed to adequately describe
not be attributed to the intervention. Moreover, the authors the study, and there were several significant methodological
computed statistical tests using “gain scores,” which, as pre- problems. The author did not describe which Brain Gym®

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007
activities were prescribed, whether there was a reason for lished in a journal that is no longer in print, and the citation
choosing a particular Brain Gym® activity, or what were the was insufficient to order the article through an academic li-
frequency and duration of the activities. Furthermore, there brary. However, the majority of the articles listed were not re-
was no control for the variation in age range of participants, viewed, because quality research should be published in
and, as the author correctly noted, it was impossible to at- peer-reviewed journals available through academic libraries
tribute any gain in perceptual development to Brain Gym®, rather than sold by the organization promoting the treatment
because the effects of maturation had not been controlled. or publishing the journals, as was the case with Brain Gym®.
The participants also served as their own controls for the
academic measure, with grade-equivalent scores on a norm-
referenced test used as the measurement. The author assumed CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
that academic growth would be the same for each year, which
could be a faulty assumption, due to extraneous variables In the Revised Teacher’s Edition of Brain Gym®, Dennison &
such as teacher effectiveness, student motivation, or outside Dennison (1994) concluded with a section identifying which
tutoring. Moreover, the author noted that children with dis- Brain Gym® exercises could be used to facilitate learning
abilities were not included in the standardization sample for in a variety of academic areas: reading skills, oral reading,
the academic test. Therefore, the instrument used to measure reading comprehension, thinking skills, spelling, math, pen-
their academic performance had not been validated for this manship, creative writing, clear listening and thinking, self-
use. Another serious flaw in this study was the use of grade- esteem, sports and play, memory, abstract thinking, creative
equivalent scores, which are not suitable metrics for statisti- thinking, speed reading, and test taking. Moreover, they
cal comparisons (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 2004). In essence, this claimed that Brain Gym® movements could improve activi-
study contained so many methodological problems that the ties such as keyboarding and riding in a car, bus, or plane;
results cannot be interpreted with any level of certainty. however, how such improvements would take place was not
The final study obtained was reported by de los Santos identified. Finally, the Brain Gym® home page (“Official
(2002) in an article focused on improving the success of His- Brain Gym®Web Site,” 2005) heading reads “Learn ANY-
panic students in higher education. Interesting enough, the re- THING Faster and More Easily,” and the Web site bookstore
search reported in the article was conducted with elementary includes books and articles touting the benefits of Brain
school students and then extrapolated to university students. Gym® for golf, sales, surfing, attention-deficit/hyperactivity
The intervention consisted of students in the target school lis- disorder, emotional disturbance, fetal alcohol syndrome,
tening to Mozart during the day and participating in activities learning disabilities, Alzheimer disease, salesmanship, sports,
based on Brain Gym®, while students in the comparison and senior moments. Although neither the theoretical founda-
group participated in their usual activities during the school tion nor the peer-reviewed research base supported the claims
year. The author concluded that the intervention was success- of Brain Gym®, the slick marketing approach made it appear
ful; however, comparisons were made using only teacher that Brain Gym® could provide the cure to all that ails
ratings of students in the target school and percentages of in- humankind.
crease in mean scores on academic tests, with no determina- Silver (1995) and the American Academy of Pediatrics
tion of whether the differences between the groups were (1999) noted that research results should be provided in peer-
statistically significant. The researcher did not control for reviewed journals and cautioned against placing much faith
threats to validity or address issues related to reliability of in research from organizations that claim to have “the cure.”
measures or to treatment fidelity. The article concluded with The advocates of Brain Gym® have not followed through on
a recommendation that university students use Brain Gym® this advice and appear to base the majority of their claims on
type exercises before an examination to improve test perfor- testimonial evidence or on research so seriously flawed that
mance but provided no credible research support for that rec- its findings are essentially meaningless. Persuasive testimoni-
ommendation. As with the other studies reviewed, this study als are not sound scientific evidence and should not be the
contained so many methodological flaws that the data cannot basis on which interventions for children with learning diffi-
be interpreted with any degree of certainty. culties are selected.
Taken together, these studies clearly failed to support The American Academy of Pediatrics (1999) noted that
claims that Brain Gym® movements were effective interven- the new generation of pediatricians may be unaware of pro-
tions for academic learning. They were overcome by method- grams such as Doman-Delacato’s repatterning and should re-
ological difficulties, and two studies failed to address ceive instruction on those programs to avoid repeating the
academic learning at all. With the exception of the studies re- mistakes of the past. It appears that this advice would also
viewed in the previous section, the only other research reports apply to educators. For example, Nolan (2004) stated that
located during the review were those listed on the Brain Doman-Delacato’s repatterning was still considered valid,
Gym® Web site and available for purchase. Two of those ar- and Reynolds, Nicolson, and Hambly (2003) wrote an article
ticles were published in peer-reviewed journals and have touting the academic benefits of a perceptual–motor training
been discussed in the previous sections. One other was pub- that included using a balance board, throwing and catching

122 R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007

bean bags, and stretching activities as treatments for reading fads that never seem to pass. The following observation by
difficulties. They did not provide specifics of the training, be- Mann in 1979 was meant to describe the state of process
cause it was considered “commercially sensitive” (Reynolds training and academic instruction, but it appears to be just as
et al., 2003, p. 55). However, Snowling and Hulme (2003) pertinent some 25 years later, because it highlights the neces-
provided a well-written critique of these claims and noted sity of ensuring that future educators and interventionists un-
that there was no evidence that this intervention, shrouded derstand the history of their field, lest they be duped into
under the guise of “commercial sensitivity,” was an effective implementing practices devoid of research support:
treatment for children with reading difficulties.
It is time that educators and educational training Process training has always made the phoenix
institutes—whether university or other entity—ensure that look like a bedraggled sparrow. You cannot kill
practices such as Brain Gym® that have no substantive theo- it. It simply bides its time in exile after being
retical or research support are no longer used with children in dislodged by one of history’s periodic attacks
the hope of ameliorating a learning problem. When writing upon it and then returns, wearing disguises or
about Brain Gym®, Goldacre (2003), a reporter for a British carrying new noms de plume, as it were, but
newspaper, stated the following: “In an ideal world, we consisting of the same old ideas, doing business
would be teaching children enough science in school that much in the same old way. (p. 539) 
they were able to stand up to a teacher who was spouting this
kind of rubbish” (p. 3). It is indeed disheartening that many KEITH J. HYATT, EdD, is an assistant professor of special education at
educators have not been as adept at spotting rubbish as was Western Washington University. His interests include special education law,
this newspaper reporter when, after all, educators have the re- inclusion, and early childhood special education. Address: Keith J. Hyatt,
Department of Special Education, Western Washington University, 516
sponsibility of ensuring that school days are filled with mean-
High Street, MS 9090, Bellingham, WA 98225-9090; e-mail: keith.hyatt@
ingful learning activities. wwu.edu
This responsibility requires that school personnel take
the time to critically review instructional programs and select
those that have sound, objective research support. As advo-
cated by Stanovich and Stanovich (1997), researchers should American Academy of Pediatrics. (1968). The Doman-Delacato treatment of
ensure they have an understanding of the typical tasks re- neurologically handicapped children. Neurology, 18, 1214–1215.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (1998). Learning disabilities, dyslexia, and
quired of teachers and translate their research findings into a vision: A subject review [Electronic version]. Pediatrics, 103, 1217–
format useful to teachers. Furthermore, teacher training pro- 1219.
grams should provide prospective teachers with the skills American Academy of Pediatrics. (1999). The treatment of neurologically
needed for evaluating research. These skills include a recog- impaired children using patterning [Electronic version]. Pediatrics, 104,
nition that quality research results are most likely found in 1149–1151.
Arter, J. A., & Jenkins, J. R. (1979). Differential diagnosis—prescriptive
scientific, peer-reviewed journals, an understanding of the teaching: A critical appraisal. Review of Educational Research, 49, 517–
importance of replication of studies, and knowledge of whether 555.
the research community has determined that there have been Barsch, R. H. (1967). Achieving perceptual–motor efficiency: A space-
enough studies to either validate or refute a particular ap- oriented approach to learning (Perceptual motor curriculum, Vol. 1).
proach. Satisfaction of these criteria would be an indicator Seattle, WA: Special Child. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
that a particular instructional practice did incorporate scien- Berliner, D. C., & Biddle, B. J. (1995). The manufactured crisis: Myths,
tific, research-based methods. fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools. New York: Perseus.
The theories and practices reviewed in this article are all Bochner, S. (1978). Ayres, sensory integration and learning disorders: A
deficit based, with the goal of identifying a particular intra- question of theory and practice. Australian Journal of Mental Retarda-
individual deficit that would explain learning problems. The tion, 5(2), 41–45.
Bracey, G. W. (2002). The war against America’s public schools: Privatizing
deficit-based explanation tends to place blame on the child schools, commercializing education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
for his or her learning problems and provides the teacher with Braingym.com (2005). Retrieved October 7, 2005, from http://www
an excuse for failing to implement sound academic instruc- .braingym.com/
tional strategies. An example of a more enlightened approach Browder, D. M., & Cooper-Duffy, K. (2003). Evidence-based practices for
that actually does include scientific, research-based strategies students with severe disabilities and the requirement for accountability
in No Child Left Behind. The Journal of Special Education, 37, 157–
would be to use a curriculum-based evaluation procedure. A 163.
detailed description of such an approach that uses formative Bruer, J. T. (1999). In search of... brain-based education. Phi Delta Kappa
assessment results to monitor and guide student instruction International. Retrieved March 4, 2006, from http://www.pdkintl.org/
has been provided by Howell and Nolet (2000) and Howell, kappan/kbru9905.htm
Hosp, and Hosp (in press). Bruer, J. T. (2004). The brain and child development: Time for some critical
thinking. In E. Zigler & S. J. Styfco (Eds.), The Head Start debates
In closing, if teachers are to use scientific, research- (pp. 423–434). Baltimore: Brookes.
based practices to the maximum extent, they must have ade- Cammisa, K. M. (1994). Educational kinesiology with learning disabled
quate training for interpreting research and be aware of past children: An efficacy study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 105–106.

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007
Chaker, A. M. (2005, April 6). U.S. kids get new therapies to aid in learning. Nolan, J. (2004). Analysis of Kavale and Mattson’s “balance beam” study
The Wall Street Journal Europe, p. A.8. (1983): Criteria for selection of articles. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 99,
Cohen, S. A. (1969). Studies in visual perception and reading in disadvan- 63–82.
taged children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2, 498–507. Novella, S. (1996). Psychomotor patterning. The Connecticut Skeptic, 1(4).
Crain, W. (2000). Theories of development: Concepts and applications (4th Retrieved October 7, 2005, from http://www.srmhp.org/archives/
ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. patterning.html
De los Santos, G. (2002). Improving the faculty’s effectiveness in increasing No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq.
the success of Hispanic students in higher education—Pronto. Journal of Oakland, T., Black, J. L., Stanford, G., Nussbaum, N. L., & Balise, R. R.
Hispanic Higher Education, 1, 225–237. (1998). The evaluation of the dyslexia training program: A multisensory
Dennison, P. E., & Dennison, G. E. (1994). Brain Gym® teacher’s edition–- method for promoting reading in students with reading disabilities. Jour-
Revised. Ventura, CA: Edu-Kinesthetics. nal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 140–147.
Doman, C. H. (1968). The diagnosis and treatment of speech and reading Official Brain Gym® Web Site. (2005). Retrieved October 2, 2005, from
problems. Springfield, IL: Thomas. http://www.braingym.org/
Goldacre, B. (2003, June 12). Life: Bad science. The Guardian. Retrieved Ormrod, J. E. (2004). Human learning (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
January 21, 2004, from the ProQuest Newspapers database; http:// Pearson.
proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.library.wwu.edu/pqdweb?index=0&did=346 Orton, S. T. (1937). Reading, writing and speech problems in children. New
708701&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD& York: Norton.
RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1166556140&clientId=9320#fulltext Pipe, M. E. (1988). Atypical laterality and retardation. Psychological Bul-
Hallahan, D. P., & Mercer, C. D. (Aug., 2001). Learning disabilities: His- letin, 104, 343–347.
torical perspectives. Paper presented at the U.S. Office of Special Ratliff, M. (2005, April 28). Building bridges in brain gym: Brantwood
Education Program’s National Initiative on Learning Disabilities, Wash- program helps kids connect left, right sides of brain, improve reading.
ington, DC. Dayton Daily News, p. Z.5.1. Retrieved May 14, 2005, from http://
Hammill, D., Goodman, L., & Wiederholt, J. L. (1974). Visual–motor proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.library.wwu.edu/pqdweb?index=2&did=
processes: Can we train them? The Reading Teacher, 27, 469–478. 829002671&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=
Hannaford, C. (1996). Smart moves. Learning, 25(3), 66–68. PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1166556026&clientId=9320#
Howell, K. W., & Nolet, V. (2000). Curriculum-based evaluation: Teaching fulltext
and decision making (3rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: Wadsworth. Reynolds, D., Nicolson, R. I., & Hambly, H. (2003). Evaluation of an exer-
Howell, K. W., Hosp, J. L., & Hosp, M. K. (in press). Curriculum-based cise-based treatment for children with reading difficulties. Dyslexia, 9,
evaluation: Teaching and decision making (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: 48–71.
Wadsworth. Robbins, M. (1966). The Delacato interpretation of neurological organiza-
Hynd, G. W., & Semrud-Clikeman, M. (1989). Dyslexia and brain morphol- tion. Reading Research Quarterly, 3, 57–78.
ogy. Psychological Bulletin, 3, 447–482. Salvia, J., & Ysseldyke, J. E. (2004). Assessment in special and inclusive
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. education (9th ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin.
§ 1400 et seq. (2004) (reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Seger, C. A., Poldrack, R. A., Prabhakaran, V., Zhao, M., Glover, G. H., &
Education Act of 1990) Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2000). Hemispheric asymmetries and individual dif-
Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1987). Substance over style: Assessing the ferences in visual concept learning as measured by functional MRI.
efficacy of modality testing and teaching. Exceptional Children, 54, Neuropsychologia, 18, 1316–1324.
228–239. Sheffield, B. B. (1991). The structured flexibility of Orton-Gillingham. An-
Kavale, K. A., & Mattson, P. D. (1983). “One jumped off the balance beam”: nals of Dyslexia, 41, 41–54.
Meta-analysis of perceptual–motor training. Journal of Learning Dis- Sieban, R. L. (1977). Controversial medical treatments of learning disabili-
abilities, 16, 165–173. ties. Academic Therapy, 13, 133–147.
Keogh, B. K., & Pelland, M. (1985). Vision training revisited. Journal of Sifft, J. M., & Khalsa, G. C. K. (1991). Effect of educational kinesiology
Learning Disabilities, 18, 228–236. upon simple response times and choice response times. Perceptual and
Khalsa, G. K., Morris, G. S. D., & Sifft, J. M. (1988). Effect of educational Motor Skills, 73, 1011–1015.
kinesiology on static balance of learning disabled students. Perceptual Silver, L. B. (1995). Controversial therapies. Journal of Child Neurology, 10,
and Motor Skills, 67, 51–54. 96–100.
Liberman, Y., Shankweiler, D., Orlando, C., Harris, K. S., & Bell Berti, F. Snowling, M. J., & Hulme, C. (2003). A critique of claims from Reynolds,
(1971). Letter confusions and reversals of sequence in the beginning Nicolson & Hambly (2003) that DDAT is an effective treatment for chil-
reader: Implications for Orton’s theory of developmental dyslexia. Cor- dren with reading difficulties—‘Lies, damned lies and (inappropriate)
tex, 7, 127–142. statistics?’ Dyslexia, 9, 127–133.
MacKay, D. N., Gollogly, J., & McDonald, G. (1986). The Doman-Delacato Stanovich, K. E. (1985). Explaining the variance in reading ability in terms
treatment methods: I. Principles of neurological organization. The Brit- of psychological processes: What have we learned? Annals of Dyslexia,
ish Journal of Mental Subnormality, 32, 3–19. 35 67–96.
Mann, L. (1979). On the trail of process. New York: Grune & Stratton. Stanovich, P. J., & Stanovich, K. E. (1997). Research into practice in special
Mayringer, H., & Wimmer, H. (2002). No deficits at the point of hemispheric education. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 477–481.
indecision. Neuropsychologia, 40, 701–704. Stone, M., & Pielstick, N. L. (1969). Effectiveness of Delacato treatment
Moats, L. C., & Farrell, M. L. (2005). Multisensory structured language ed- with kindergarten children. Psychology in the Schools, 6, 63–68.
ucation. In J. R. Birsch (Ed.), Multisensory teaching of basic language Sullivan, J. (1972). The effects of Kephart’s perceptual motor-training on a
skills (2nd ed., pp. 23–41). Baltimore: Brookes. reading clinic sample. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 5(10), 32–38.
Mohan, A., Singh, A. P., & Mandal, M. K. (2001). Transfer and interference Thorndike, R. M. (2005). Measurement and evaluation in psychology and
of motor skills in people with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellec- education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
tual Disability Research, 45, 361–369. Wolfsont, C. (2002). Increasing behavioral skills and level of understanding
National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk: in adults: A brief method integrating Dennison’s brain gym balance with
The imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: Author. Re- Piaget’s reflective processes. Journal of Adult Development, 9, 187–202.
trieved October 7, 2005, from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/

124 R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N

Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2007

View publication stats